Gruff Rhys is no stranger to collabs. In addition to leading Super Furry Animals, Rhys has some eclectic credits including collaborations with De La Soul, Gorillaz, Simian Mobile Disco, Danger Mouse, Bloom Bip (for a project called Neon Neon), the National Orchestra of Wales, and most recently South African electronic producer Muzi for his latest album, Pang!. Give the record a spin and enjoy Rhys’s playlist of his favorite unlikely collaborations.
—Keenan Kush, Talkhouse Operations Manager
Tony Pagliuca (Le Orme) & Pope Francis — “Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!”
Whatever your religious status, this has got to be number one in any unlikely collab list. It’s the real Pope! Cutting a record with superior Italian Psyche outfit Le Orme.
Dolly Parton & Emmylou Harris & Linda Rondstadt — “After the Gold Rush”
The Supergroup paradigm — I mean, there’s so many examples. Who could have imagined washed up members of The Byrds, The Hollies, and Buffalo Springfield together in one group until Crosby, Stills, & Nash harmonized into existence? Even better this trio. With Linda not singing anymore, this collaboration takes on extra resonance and meaning.
Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot — “Bonnie and Clyde”
I suppose this plays into a kind of beauty and the beast paradigm of unlikely collaboration. This sub-genre is often problematic in its definition of beauty and beastie, especially when it strays into clear objectification. I think this track works as it was a beautifully unlikely pairing; it’s got great atonal violin drones, and they are singing as a united two person gang rather than acting out some unlikely dalliance.
Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) & Nelly Furtado — “Only Human”
Unlikely, but why not?
Brigitte Fontaine & Art Ensemble of Chicago — “Encore”
Unlikely but more, more please!
The Velvet Underground & Nico — “All Tomorrow’s Parties”
Some collaborations are difficult and unlikely at the time. For example, the Velvets and Nico forced together by the conceptualist Andy Warhol. Also see Lou Reed/Metallica (not on Spotify). But time can be kind — today they appear perfect and inseparable.
The Beach Boys & Charles Manson — “Never Learn Not to Love”
I hate giving him the publicity, but this is truly an unlikely collaboration — but only due to subsequent events. What seemed innocent and earnest at its conception, subsequently the lyrics are seen through an altered lens.
Phil Collins & Bone Thugs-N-Harmony — “Home”
In the world of unlikely collaboration, the rap/rock crossover is king. I mean, I could devote the whole playlist to it, but that would be pretty painful and would inevitably feature Limp Bizkit. While for the most part, it’s an ill-judged careerist move into the tailwind of Aerosmith & Run DMC’s sensational novelty pop of “Walk this Way,” there are other honorable exceptions. Maybe Sonic Youth and Chuck D’s “Kool Thing,” for a start (but then, why shouldn’t have NYC’s leading radicals of the time been collaborating)? Somewhere deep in the armpit of the troubled rap/rock body is this track that I was introduced to via YouTube link by my friend Boom Bip — it’s all about the official video, really. Shot at Phil’s tax exile haven “home” of Switzerland on the mean streets of, ahem, Geneva, marvel at Phil’s weird sense of dislocation.
Neon Neon & Sabrina Salerno — “Shopping”
On paper, the most unlikely thing I was ever involved with was this track with Euro pop star Sabrina. But, the recording was a dream — no stress. In 2013, I flew EasyJet to Venice, Sabrina picked me up and drove me to her castle, showed me some paintings she’d made recently; we practiced the track around a piano, then we went to the studio to record. She took me to dinner with her husband and son then dropped me back at the airport. She had great anecdotes about working with the top dance producers of the 1980s: Moroder, S.A.W etc. Moroder seems like a great guy. Another producer had a Ferrari in his living room — not so great.
Scott Walker & Sunn O))) — “Brando”
Truly great, unlikely, and disturbing!
Yoko Ono & John Lennon — “Baby’s Heartbeat”
Their long collaboration was unlikely, radical, and powerful, especially for the time.